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MANA SHARE Centers Partner with Islamic Relief for Day of Dignity

by Rutrell Yasin

The true spirit of charity is on display throughout the month of Ramadan as Muslims come together to feed thousands of needy individuals and families while fasting from food and drink themselves.

The Ramadan event, known as The Day of Dignity, is sponsored by Islamic Relief, an international charity with offices in over 40 countries. The event will not only raise awareness of the plight of the needy and homeless, it will also demonstrate that they deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as those who are fortunate enough to have regular meals, homes and jobs. While in past years the Ramadan food drives were held during only one weekend of Ramadan, this year, the Day of Dignity event is taking place in multiple cities, during each of the four weekends of Ramadan. Islamic Relief gave each city a grant to assist in purchasing items.

This year, Services for Human Advancement and Resource Enhancements (SHARE) Centers affiliated with the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA) are partnering with Islamic Relief, hosting programs in various cities.  MANA is a national network of Muslim organizations working together to address urgent social and economic needs in the Muslim community, especially in the inner city.

In addition to receiving a healthy meal, participants can take advantage of health screenings for cholesterol, diabetes, eye and hearing, high blood pressure, and HIV/AIDS, as well as register to vote and take home giveaway items.

More than 1,000 people received a healthy, halal meal Saturday, September 13 at the Day of Dignity event in Newark, N.J., said Abu Jamal Teague, National Director of SHARE Centers.

“Last year, we gave out hot dogs, but this year we worked to get Islamic restaurants to donate food.  So not only did we hand out halal meals, but we had a greater variety [of food].  Giving them that quality meal was a fundamental difference over last year,” he said.

The Newark event was held at the City of Newark Recreation Center and had support from all of the city agencies that deal with the needy and homeless, including the Departments of Health and Welfare, he said.

“Alhamdulillah, through Allah’s Mercy we had a slew of volunteers from throughout the Muslim community,” said Saidah Williams-Ahmad, a coordinator of the event with SHARE Essex County.  Besides health screenings, there was a mobile unit where participants could apply for the food stamp program. Because many of the homeless do not have transportation, it is difficult for them to make it to an office to sign up for food stamps, she said.

Next stop is Atlanta, Georgia.

On September 20, 2008, from 11a.m.to 5 p.m., The Day of Dignity will be held in Atlanta.

“This is the first time that the Day of Dignity event is being held in Atlanta”, said Thamani Akbar Williams, Event Coordinator and board of trustee member for SHARE Atlanta, Inc., which will be hosting the event. After attending a Day of Dignity training session held by Islamic Relief in the spring, Sister Akbar Williams realized that this would be a good event for MANA’s involvement.

“Atlanta City officials have offered their full support, making it easy for organizers to get the necessary permits”, Williams Akbar said. The Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA.), have been invited but have not confirmed, as of this writing, whether they will attend, she said.

The event will occur on Broad Street between Martin Luther King and Trinity Streets in Atlanta’s downtown district. The first block will host the food distribution, stage for dignitaries who will offer speeches, voter registration, health screenings by medical personnel from the Fulton County Health and Wellness and physicians tables.  A tent where participants can eat their meals will be set up on the second block.  This location on Broad Street is the weekly feeding site of Taking It To The Street, a program headed by Abdul Jami whose volunteers regularly feed 300 to 500 people every Sunday, rain or shine.

At this time, 200 volunteers are offering their services. Some of them include a group of Muslim Georgia State students of PROJECT DOWNTOWN, which feed approximately 300 people each weekend.  Also participating is Sisters United for Human Service, Inc., a Muslim organization of women who have been feeding in the downtown area of Atlanta for the past 11 years—some weeks in three different locations on the same day. 

“Ramadan is a time of fasting, reading Qur’an and striving to get closer to Allah,” said Sister Khayriyyah Faiz, President and a founding member of Sisters United in Human Service, Inc., and Chairwoman of SHARE Atlanta., Inc.’s Board of Trustees.

“It is our hope that Ramadan will inspire us. It is our hope that through this big event Muslims will continue to organize to meet the needs of the homeless and needy throughout the year,” Sister Faiz said. 

She noted that many Muslim organizations in the metro Atlanta area provide assistance to the needy throughout the year, but this event has brought these groups together to work collaboratively as one big Ummah (community) during the holy month of Ramadan.

“So it is gratifying to do this on a larger scale with believers throughout the city.  SHARE Atlanta is honored to partner with Islamic Relief to provide this venue for feeding and assisting those in need,” she added.

The Day of Dignity is being implemented in 19 major cities across the U.S. during September, including Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Las Vegas, NV; Newark, N.J.; New York, N.Y.; Phoenix, AZ.; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; and Washington, D.C.,  to name a few.

For further information about the Atlanta event please contact Thamani Akbar Williams, event coordinator at 678-778-4954, 404-752-9548 (evenings) or by e-mail thamaniakbar@yahoo.com

And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.

Quran: 3:103
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